THE GRAND SMASH
IN THE latter part of July the Pages took a small house at Ockham, in Surrey, and here they spent the fateful week that preceded the outbreak of war. The Ambassador's emotions on this event are reflected in a memorandum written on Sunday, August 2nd---a day that was full of negotiations, ultimatums, and other precursors of the approaching struggle.
Bachelor's Farm, Ockham, Surrey.
Sunday, August 2, 1914.
The Grand Smash is come. Last night the German Ambassador at St. Petersburg handed the Russian Government a declaration of war. To-day the German Government asked the United States to take its diplomatic and consular business in Russia in hand. Herrick, our Ambassador in Paris, has already taken the German interests there.
It is reported in London to-day that the Germans have invaded Luxemburg and France.
Troops were marching through London at one o'clock this morning. Colonel Squier(61) came out to luncheon. He sees no way for England to keep out of it. There is no way. If she keep out, Germany will take Belgium and Holland, France would be betrayed, and England would be accused of forsaking her friends.
People came to the Embassy all day to-day (Sunday), to learn how they can get to the United States---a rather hard question to answer. I thought several times of going in, but Greene and Squier said there was no need of it. People merely hoped we might tell them what we can't tell them.
Returned travellers from Paris report indescribable confusion---people unable to obtain beds and fighting for seats in railway carriages.
It's been a hard day here. I have a lot (not a big lot either) of routine work on my desk which I meant to do. But it has been impossible to get my mind off this Great Smash. It holds one in spite of one's self. I revolve it and revolve it---of course getting nowhere.
It will revive our shipping. In a jiffy, under stress of a general European war, the United States Senate passed a bill permitting American registry to ships built abroad. Thus a real emergency knocked the old Protectionists out, who had held on for fifty years! Correspondingly the political parties here have agreed to suspend their Home Rule quarrel till this war is ended. Artificial structures fall when a real wind blows.
The United States is the only great Power wholly out of it. The United States, most likely, therefore, will be able to play a helpful and historic part at its end. It will give President Wilson, no doubt, a great opportunity. It will probably help us politically and it will surely help us economically.
The possible consequences stagger the imagination. Germany has staked everything on her ability to win primacy. England and France (to say nothing of Russia) really ought to give her a drubbing. If they do not, this side of the world will henceforth be German. If they do flog Germany, Germany will for a long time be in discredit.
I walked out in the night a while ago. The stars are bright, the night is silent, the country quiet---as quiet as peace itself. Millions of men are in camp and on warships. Will they all have to fight and many of them die---to untangle this network of treaties and alliances and to blow off huge debts with gunpowder so that the world may start again?
A hurried picture of the events of the next seven days is given m the following letter to the President:
To the President
London, Sunday, August 9, 1914.
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT:
God save us! What a week it has been! Last Sunday I was down here at the cottage I have taken for the summer---an hour out of London---uneasy because of the apparent danger and of what Sir Edward Grey had told me. During the day people began to go to the Embassy, but not in great numbers---merely to ask what they should do in case of war. The Secretary whom I had left in charge on Sunday telephoned me every few hours and laughingly told funny experiences with nervous women who came in and asked absurd questions. Of course, we all knew the grave danger that war might come but nobody could by the wildest imagination guess at what awaited us. On Monday I was at the Embassy earlier than I think I had ever been there before and every member of the staff was already on duty. Before breakfast time the place was filled---packed like sardines. This was two days before war was declared. There was no chance to talk to individuals, such was the jam. I got on a chair and explained that I had already telegraphed to Washington---on Saturday---suggesting the sending of money and ships, and asking them to be patient. I made a speech to them several times during the day, and kept the Secretaries doing so at intervals. More than 2,000 Americans crowded into those offices (which are not large) that day. We were kept there till two o'clock in the morning. The Embassy has not been closed since.
Mr. Kent of the Bankers Trust Company in New York volunteered to form an American Citizens' Relief Committee. He and other men of experience and influence organized themselves at the Savoy Hotel. The hotel gave the use of nearly a whole floor. They organized themselves quickly and admirably and got information about steamships and currency, etc. We began to send callers at the Embassy to this Committee for such information. The banks were all closed for four days. These men got money enough---put it up themselves and used their English banking friends for help---to relieve all cases of actual want of cash that came to them. Tuesday the crowd at the Embassy was still great but smaller. The big space at the Savoy Hotel gave them room to talk to one another and to get relief for immediate needs. By that time I had accepted the volunteer services of five or six men to help us explain to the people---and they have all worked manfully day and night. We now have an orderly organization at four places: The Embassy, the Consul-General's Office, the Savoy, and the American Society in London, and everything is going well. Those two first days, there was, of course, great confusion. Crazy men and weeping women were imploring and cursing and demanding---God knows it was bedlam turned loose. I have been called a man of the greatest genius for an emergency by some, by others a damned fool, by others every epithet between these extremes. Men shook English banknotes in my face and demanded United States money and swore our Government and its agents ought all to be shot. Women expected me to hand them steamship tickets home. When some found out that they could not get tickets on the transports (which they assumed would sail the next day) they accused me of favouritism. These absurd experiences will give you a hint of the panic. But now it has worked out all right, thanks to the Savoy Committee and other helpers.
Meantime, of course, our telegrams and mail increased almost as much as our callers. I have filled the place with stenographers, I have got the Savoy people to answer certain classes of letters, and we have caught up. My own time and the time of two of the secretaries has been almost wholly taken with governmental problems; hundreds of questions have come in from every quarter that were never asked before. But even with them we have now practically caught up---it has been a wonderful week!
Then the Austrian Ambassador came to give up his Embassy---to have me take over his business. Every detail was arranged. The next morning I called on him to assume charge and to say good-bye, when he told me that he was not yet going! That was a stroke of genius by Sir Edward Grey, who informed him that Austria had not given England cause for war. That may work out, or it may not. Pray Heaven it may! Poor Mensdorff, the Austrian Ambassador, does not know where he is. He is practically shut up in his guarded Embassy, weeping and waiting the decree of fate.
Then came the declaration of war, most dramatically.
Tuesday night, five minutes after the ultimatum had expired, the Admiralty telegraphed to the fleet "Go." In a few minutes the answer came back "Off." Soldiers began to march through the city going to the railway stations. An indescribable crowd so blocked the streets about the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Foreign Office, that at one o'clock in the morning I had to drive in my car by other streets to get home.
The next day the German Embassy was turned over to me. I went to see the German Ambassador at three o'clock in the afternoon. He came down in his pajamas, a crazy man. I feared he might literally go mad. He is of the anti-war party and he had done his best and utterly failed. This interview was one of the most pathetic experiences of my life. The poor man had not slept for several nights. Then came the crowds of frightened Germans, afraid that they would be arrested. They besieged the German Embassy and our Embassy. I put one of our naval officers in the German Embassy, put the United States seal on the door to protect it, and we began business there, too. Our naval officer has moved in---sleeps there. He has an assistant, a stenographer, a messenger: and I gave him the German automobile and chauffeur and two English servants that were left there. He has the job well in hand now, under my and Laughlin's supervision. But this has brought still another new lot of diplomatic and governmental problems---a lot of them. Three enormous German banks in London have, of course, been closed. Their managers pray for my aid. Howling women come and say their innocent German husbands have been arrested as spies. English, Germans, Americans---everybody has daughters and wives and invalid grandmothers alone in Germany. In God's name, they ask, what can I do for them? Here come stacks of letters sent under the impression that I can send them to Germany. But the German business is already well in hand and I think that that will take little of my own time and will give little trouble. I shall send a report about it in detail to the Department the very first day I can find time to write it. In spite of the effort of the English Government to remain at peace with Austria, I fear I shall yet have the Austrian Embassy too. But I can attend to it.
Now, however, comes the financial job of wisely using the $300,000 which I shall have to-morrow. I am using Mr. Chandler Anderson as counsel, of course. I have appointed a Committee---Skinner, the Consul-General, Lieut.-Commander McCrary of our Navy, Kent of the Bankers Trust Company, New York, and one other man yet to be chosen---to advise, after investigation, about every proposed expenditure. Anderson has been at work all day to-day drawing up proper forms, etc., to fit the Department's very excellent instructions. I have the feeling that more of that money may be wisely spent in helping to get people off the continent (except in France, where they seem admirably to be managing it, under Herrick) than is immediately needed in England. All this merely to show you the diversity and multiplicity of the job.
I am having a card catalogue, each containing a sort of who's who, of all Americans in Europe of whom we hear. This will be ready by the time the Tennessee(62) comes. Fifty or more stranded Americans---men and women---are doing this work free.
I have a member of Congress(63) in the general reception room of the Embassy answering people's questions---three other volunteers as well.
We had a world of confusion for two or three days. But all this work is now well organized and it can be continued without confusion or cross purposes. I meet committees and lay plans and read and write telegrams from the time I wake till I go to bed. But, since it is now all in order, it is easy. Of course I am running up the expenses of the Embassy---there is no help for that; but the bill will be really exceedingly small because of the volunteer work---for awhile. I have not and shall not consider the expense of whatever it seems absolutely necessary to do---of other things I shall always consider the expense most critically. Everybody is working with everybody else in the finest possible spirit. I have made out a sort of military order to the Embassy staff, detailing one man with clerks for each night and forbidding the others to stay there till midnight. None of us slept more than a few hours last week. It was not the work that kept them after the first night or two, but the sheer excitement of this awful cataclysm. All London has been awake for a week. Soldiers are marching day and night; immense throngs block the streets about the government offices. But they are all very orderly. Every day Germans are arrested on suspicion; and several of them have committed suicide. Yesterday one poor American woman yielded to the excitement and cut her throat. I find it hard to get about much. People stop me on the street, follow me to luncheon, grab me as I come out of any committee meeting---to know my opinion of this or that---how can they get home? Will such-and-such a boat fly the American flag? Why did I take the German Embassy? I have to fight my way about and rush to an automobile. I have had to buy me a second one to keep up the racket. Buy?---no---only bargain for it, for I have not any money. But everybody is considerate, and that makes no matter for the moment. This little cottage in an out-of-the-way place, twenty-five miles from London, where I am trying to write and sleep, has been found by people to-day, who come in automobiles to know how they may reach their sick kinspeople in Germany. I have not had a bath for three days: as soon as I got in the tub, the telephone rang an "urgent" call!
Fig. 12. No. 6 Grosvenor Square, the American Embassy under Mr. Page
Fig 13. Irwin Laughlin, Secretary of the American Embassy at London, 1912-1917, Counsellor 1916-1919
Upon my word, if one could forget the awful tragedy, all this experience would be worth a lifetime of commonplace. One surprise follows another so rapidly that one loses all sense of time: it seems an age since last Sunday.
I shall never forget Sir Edward Grey's telling me of the ultimatum---while he wept; nor the poor German Ambassador who has lost in his high game---almost a demented man; nor the King as he declaimed at me for half-an-hour and threw up his hands and said, "My God, Mr. Page, what else could we do?" Nor the Austrian Ambassador's wringing his hands and weeping and crying out, "My dear Colleague, my dear Colleague."
Along with all this tragedy come two reverend American peace delegates who got out of Germany by the skin of their teeth and complain that, they lost all the clothes they had except what they had on. "Don't complain," said I, "but thank God you saved your skins." Everybody has forgotten what war means---forgotten that folks get hurt. But they are coming around to it now. A United States Senator telegraphs me: "Send my wife and daughter home on the first ship." Ladies and gentlemen filled the steerage of that ship---not a bunk left; and his wife and daughter are found three days later sitting in a swell hotel waiting for me to bring them stateroom tickets on a silver tray! One of my young fellows in the Embassy rushes into my office saying that a man from Boston, with letters of introduction from Senators and Governors and Secretaries, et al., was demanding tickets of admission to a picture gallery, and a secretary to escort him there.
"What shall I do with him?"
"Put his proposal to a vote of the 200 Americans in the room and see them draw and quarter him."
I have not yet heard what happened. A woman writes me four pages to prove how dearly she loves my sister and invites me to her hotel---five miles away---"please to tell her about the sailing of the steamships." Six American preachers pass a resolution unanimously "urging our Ambassador to telegraph our beloved, peace-loving President to stop this awful war"; and they come with simple solemnity to present their resolution. Lord save us, what a world!
And this awful tragedy moves on to---what? We do not know what is really happening, so strict is the censorship. But it seems inevitable to me that Germany will be beaten, that the horrid period of alliances and armaments will not come again, that England will gain even more of the earth's surface, that Russia may next play the menace; that all Europe (as much as survives) will be bankrupt; that relatively we shall be immensely stronger financially and politically---there must surely come many great changes---very many, yet undreamed of. Be ready; for you will be called on to compose this huge quarrel. I thank Heaven for many things---first, the Atlantic Ocean; second, that you refrained from war in Mexico; third, that we kept our treaty---the canal tolls victory, I mean. Now, when all this half of the world will suffer the unspeakable brutalization of war, we shall preserve our moral strength, our political powers, and our ideals.
God save us!
W. H. P.
Vivid as is the above letter, it lacks several impressive details. Probably the one event that afterward stood out most conspicuously in Page's mind was his interview with Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary. Sir Edward asked the American Ambassador to call Tuesday afternoon; his purpose was to inform him that Great Britain had sent an ultimatum to Germany. By this time Page and the Foreign Secretary. had established not only cordial official relations but a warm friendship. The two men had many things in common; they had the same general outlook on world affairs, the same ideas of justice and fair dealing, the same belief that other motives than greed and aggrandizement should control the attitude of one nation to another. The political tendencies of both men were idealistic; both placed character above everything else as the first requisite of a statesman; both hated war, and looked forward to the time when more rational methods of conducting international relations would prevail. Moreover, their purely personal qualities had drawn Sir Edward and Page closely together. A common love of nature and of out-of-door life had made them akin; both loved trees, birds, flowers, and hedgerows; the same intellectual diversions and similar tastes in reading had strengthened the tie. "I could never mention a book I liked that Mr. Page had not read and liked too," Sir Edward Grey once remarked to the present writer, and the enthusiasm that both men felt for Wordsworth's poetry in itself formed a strong bond of union. The part that the American Ambassador had played in the repeal of the Panama discrimination had also made a great impression upon this British statesman ---a man to whom honour means more in international dealings than any other consideration. "Mr. Page is one of the finest illustrations I have ever known," Grey once said, "of the value of character in a public man." In their intercourse for the past year the two men had grown accustomed to disregard all pretense of diplomatic technique; their discussions had been straightforward man-to-man talks; there had been nothing suggestive of pose or finesse, and no attempts at cleverness ---merely an effort to get to the bottom of things and to discover a common meeting ground. The Ambassador, moreover, represented a nation for which the Foreign Secretary had always entertained the highest respect and even affection, and he and Page could find no happier common meeting-ground than an effort to bring about the closest cooperation between the two countries. Sir Edward, far-seeing statesman that he was, had already appreciated, even amid the exciting and engrossing experiences through which he was then passing, the critical and almost determining part which the United States was destined to play in the war, and he had now sent for the American Ambassador because he believed that the President was entitled to a complete explanation of the momentous decision which Great Britain had just made.
The meeting took place at three o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, August 4th---a fateful date in modern history. The time represented the interval which elapsed between the transmission of the British ultimatum to Germany and the hour set for the German reply. The place was that same historic room in the Foreign Office where so many interviews had already taken place and where so many were to take place in the next four years. As Page came in, Sir Edward, a tall and worn and rather pallid figure, was standing against the mantelpiece; he greeted the Ambassador with a grave handshake and the two men sat down. Overwrought the Foreign Secretary may have been, after the racking week which had just passed, but there was nothing flurried or excited in his manner; his whole bearing was calm and dignified, his speech was quiet and restrained, he uttered not one bitter word against Germany, but his measured accents had a sureness, a conviction of the justice of his course, that went home in almost deadly fashion. He sat in a characteristic pose, his elbows resting on the sides of his chair, his hands folded and placed beneath his chin, the whole body leaning forward eagerly and his eyes searching those of his American friend. The British Foreign Secretary was a handsome and an inspiring figure. He was a man of large, but of well knit, robust, and slender frame, wiry and even athletic; he had a large head, surmounted with dark brown hair, slightly touched with gray; a finely cut, somewhat rugged and bronzed face, suggestive of that out-of-door life in which he had always found his greatest pleasure; light blue eyes that shone with straightforwardness and that on this occasion were somewhat pensive with anxiety; thin, ascetic lips that could smile in the most confidential manner or close tightly with grimness and fixed purpose. He was a man who was at the same time shy and determined, elusive and definite, but if there was one note in his bearing that predominated all others, it was a solemn and quiet sincerity. He seemed utterly without guile and magnificently simple.
Sir Edward at once referred to the German invasion of Belgium.
"The neutrality of Belgium," he said, and there was the touch of finality in his voice, "is assured by treaty. Germany is a signatory power to that treaty. It is upon such solemn compacts as this that civilization rests. If we give them up, or permit them to be violated, what becomes of civilization? Ordered society differs from mere force only by such solemn agreements or compacts. But Germany has violated the neutrality of Belgium. That means bad faith. It means also the end of Belgium's independence. And it will not end with Belgium. Next will come Holland, and, after Holland, Denmark. This very morning the Swedish Minister informed me that Germany had made overtures to Sweden to come in on Germany's side. The whole plan is thus clear. This one great military power means to annex Belgium, Holland, and the Scandinavian states and to subjugate France."
Sir Edward energetically rose; he again stood near the mantelpiece, his figure straightened, his eyes were fairly flashing---it was a picture, Page once told me, that was afterward indelibly fixed in his mind.
"England would be forever contemptible," Sir Edward said, "if it should sit by and see this treaty violated. Its position would be gone if Germany were thus permitted to dominate Europe. I have therefore asked you to come to tell you that this morning we sent an ultimatum to Germany. We have told Germany that, if this assault on Belgium's neutrality is not reversed, England will declare war."
"Do you expect Germany to accept it?" asked the Ambassador.
Sir Edward shook his head.
"No. Of course everybody knows that there will be war."
There was a moment's pause and then the Foreign Secretary spoke again:
"Yet we must remember that there are two Germanys. There is the Germany of men like ourselves---of men like Lichnowsky and Jagow. Then there is the Germany of men of the war party. The war party has got the upper hand."
At this point Sir Edward's eyes filled with tears.
"Thus the efforts of a lifetime go for nothing. I feel like a man who has wasted his life."
"This scene was most affecting," Page said afterward. "Sir Edward not only realized what the whole thing meant, but he showed that he realized the awful responsibility for it."
Sir Edward then asked the Ambassador to explain the situation to President Wilson; he expressed the hope that the United States would take an attitude of neutrality and that Great Britain might look for "the courtesies of neutrality" from this country. Page tried to tell him of the sincere pain that such a war would cause the President and the American people.
"I came away," the Ambassador afterward said, "with a sort of stunned sense of the impending ruin of half the world."(64)
The significant fact in this interview is that the British Foreign Secretary justified the attitude of his country exclusively on the ground of the violation of a treaty. This is something that is not yet completely understood in the United States. The participation of Great Britain in this great continental struggle is usually regarded as having been inevitable, irrespective of the German invasion of Belgium; yet the fact is that, had Germany not invaded Belgium, Great Britain would not have declared war, at least at this critical time. Sir Edward came to Page after a week's experience with a wavering cabinet. Upon the general question of Britain's participation in a European war the Asquith Ministry had been by no means unanimous. Probably Mr. Asquith himself and Mr. Lloyd George would have voted against taking such a step. It is quite unlikely that the cabinet could have carried a majority of the House of Commons on this issue. But the violation of the Belgian treaty changed the situation in a twinkling. The House of Commons at once took its stand in favour of intervention. All members of the cabinet, excepting John Morley and John Burns, who resigned, immediately aligned themselves on the side of war. In the minds of British statesmen the violation of this treaty gave Britain no choice. Germany thus forced Great Britain into the war, just as, two and a half years afterward, the Prussian war lords compelled the United States to take up arms. Sir Edward Grey's interview with the American Ambassador thus had great historic importance, for it makes this point clear. The two men had recently had many discussions on another subject in which the violation of a treaty was the great consideration---that of Panama tolls---and there was a certain appropriateness in this explanation of the British Foreign Secretary that precisely the same point had determined Great Britain's participation in the greatest struggle that has ever devastated Europe.
Inevitably the question of American mediation had come to the surface in this trying time. Several days before Page's interview with Grey, the American Ambassador, acting in response to a cablegram from Washington, had asked if the good offices of the United States could be used in any way. "Sir Edward is very appreciative of our mood and willingness," Page wrote in reference to this visit. "But they don't want peace on the continent---the ruling classes do not. But they will want it presently and then our opportunity will come. Ours is the only great government in the world that is not in some way entangled. Of course I'll keep in daily touch with Sir Edward and with everybody who can and will keep me informed."
This was written about July 27th; at that time Austria had sent her ultimatum to Serbia but there was no certainty that Europe would become involved in war. A demand for American mediation soon became widespread in the United States; the Senate passed a resolution requesting the President to proffer his good offices to that end. On this subject the following communications were exchanged between President Wilson and his chief adviser, then sojourning at his summer home in Massachusetts. Like Mr. Tumulty, the President's Secretary, Colonel House usually addressed the President in terms reminiscent of the days when Mr. Wilson was Governor of New Jersey. Especially interesting also are Colonel House's references to his own trip to Berlin and the joint efforts made by the President and himself in the preceding June to forestall the war which had now broken out.
Edward M. House to the President
Pride's Crossing (Mass.),
August 3, 1914. [Monday.]
The White House, Washington, D. C.
Our people are deeply shocked at the enormity of this general European war, and I see here and there regret that you did not use your good offices in behalf of peace.
If this grows into criticism so as to become noticeable I believe everyone would be pleased and proud that you had anticipated this world-wide horror and had done all that was humanly possible to avert it.
The more terrible the war becomes, the greater credit it will be that you saw the trend of events long before it was seen by other statesmen of the world.
Your very faithfully,
E. M. HOUSE.
P. S. The question might be asked why negotiations were only with Germany and England and not with France and Russia. This, of course, was because it was thought that Germany would act for the Triple Alliance and England for the Triple Entente.(65)
The President to Edward M. House
The White House,
Washington, D. C.
August 4th, 1914. [Tuesday.]
EDWARD M. HOUSE,
Pride's Crossing, Mass.
Letter of third received. Do you think I could and should act now and if so how?
Edward M. House to the President
Pride's Crossing, Mass.
August 5th, 1914. [Wednesday.]
The White House, Washington, D. C.
Olney(66) and I agree that in response to the Senate resolution it would be unwise to tender your good offices at this time. We believe it would lessen your influence when the proper moment arrives. He thinks it advisable that you make a direct or indirect statement to the effect that you have done what was humanly possible to compose the situation before this crisis had been reached. He thinks this would satisfy the Senate and the public in view of your disinclination to act now upon the Senate resolution. The story might be told to the correspondents at Washington and they might use the expression "we have it from high authority."
He agrees to my suggestion that nothing further should be done now than to instruct our different ambassadors to inform the respective governments to whom they are accredited, that you stand ready to tender your good offices whenever such an offer is desired.
Olney agrees with me that the shipping bill(67) is full of lurking dangers.
E. M. HOUSE.
For some reason, however, the suggested statement was not made. The fact that Colonel House had visited London, Paris, and Berlin six weeks before the outbreak of war, in an effort to bring about a plan for disarmament, was not permitted to reach the public ear. Probably the real reason why this fact was concealed was that its publication at that time would have reflected so seriously upon Germany that it would have been regarded as "un-neutral." Colonel House, as already described, had found Germany in a most belligerent frame of mind, its army "ready," to use the Kaiser's own word, for an immediate spring at France; on the other hand he had found Great Britain in a most pacific frame of mind, entirely unsuspicious of Germany, and confident that the European situation was daily improving. It is interesting now to speculate on the public sensation that would have been caused had Colonel House's account of his visit to Berlin been published at that exciting time.
Page's telegrams and letters show that any suggestion at mediation would have been a waste of effort. The President seriously forebore, but the desire to mediate was constantly in his mind for the next few months, and he now interested himself in laying the foundations of future action. Page was instructed to ask for an audience with King George and to present the following document:
From the President of the United Slates to His Majesty the King
As official head of one of the Powers signatory to the Hague Convention, I feel it to be my privilege and my duty under Article 3 of that Convention to say to your Majesty, in a spirit of most earnest friendship, that I should welcome an opportunity to act in the interest of European peace either now or at any time that might be thought more suitable as an occasion, to serve your Majesty and all concerned in a way that would afford me lasting cause for gratitude and happiness.
This, of course, was not mediation, but a mere expression of the President's willingness to mediate at any time that such a tender from him, in the opinion of the warring Powers, would serve the cause of peace. Identically the same message was sent to the American Ambassadors at the capitals of all the belligerent Powers for presentation to the heads of state. Page's letter of August 9th, printed above, refers to the earnestness and cordiality with which King George received him and to the freedom with which His Majesty discussed the situation.
In this exciting week Page was thrown into intimate contact with the two most pathetic figures in the diplomatic circle of London---the Austrian and the German Ambassadors. To both of these men the war was more than a great personal sorrow: it was a tragedy. Mensdorff, the Austrian Ambassador, had long enjoyed an intimacy with the British royal family. Indeed he was a distant relative of King George, for he was a member of the family of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a fact which was emphasized by his physical resemblance to Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria. Mensdorff was not a robust man, physically or mentally, and he showed his consternation at the impending war in most unrestrained and even unmanly fashion. As his government directed him to turn the Austrian Embassy over to the American Ambassador, it was necessary for Page to call and arrange the details. The interview, as Page's letter indicates, was little less than a paroxysm of grief on the Austrian's part. He denounced Germany and the Kaiser; he paraded up and down the room wringing his hands; he could be pacified only by suggestions from the American that perhaps something might happen to keep Austria out of the war. The whole atmosphere of the Austrian Embassy radiated this same feeling. "Austria has no quarrel with England," remarked one of Mensdorff's assistants to one of the ladies of the American Embassy; and this sentiment was the general one in Austrian diplomatic circles. The disinclination of both Great Britain and Austria to war was so great that, as Page relates, for several days there was no official declaration.
Even more tragical than the fate of the Austrian Ambassador was that of his colleague, the representative of the German Emperor. It was more tragical because Prince Lichnowsky represented the power that was primarily responsible, and because he had himself been an unwilling tool in bringing on the cataclysm. It was more profound because Lichnowsky was a man of deeper feeling and greater moral purpose than his Austrian colleague, and because for two years he had been devoting his strongest energies to preventing the very calamity which had now become a fact. As the war went on Lichnowsky gradually emerged as one of its finest figures; the pamphlet which he wrote, at a time when Germany's military fortunes were still high, boldly placing the responsibility upon his own country and his own Kaiser, was one of the bravest acts which history records. Through all his brief Ambassadorship Lichnowsky had shown these same friendly traits. The mere fact that he had been selected as Ambassador at this time was little less than a personal calamity. His appointment gives a fair measure of the depths of duplicity to which the Prussian system could descend. For more than fourteen years Lichnowsky had led the quiet life of a Polish country gentleman; he had never enjoyed the favour of the Kaiser; in his own mind and in that of his friends his career had long since been finished; yet from this retirement he had been suddenly called upon to represent the Fatherland at the greatest of European capitals. The motive for this elevation, which was unfathomable then, is evident enough now. Prince Lichnowsky was known to be an Anglophile; everything English---English literature, English country life, English public men---had for him an irresistible charm; and his greatest ambition as a diplomat had been to maintain the most cordial relations between his own country and Great Britain. This was precisely the type of Ambassador that fitted into the Imperial purpose at that crisis. Germany was preparing energetically but quietly for war; it was highly essential that its most formidable potential foe, Great Britain, should be deceived as to the Imperial plans and lulled into a sense of security. The diabolical character of Prince Lichnowsky's selection for this purpose was that, though his mission was one of deception, he was not himself a party to it and did not realize until it was too late that he had been used merely as a tool. Prince Lichnowsky was not called upon to assume a mask; all that was necessary was that he should simply be himself. And he acquitted himself with great success. He soon became a favourite in London society; the Foreign Office found him always ready to cooperate in any plan that tended to improve relations between the two countries. It will be remembered that, when Colonel House returned to London from his interview with the Kaiser in June, 1914, he found British statesmen incredulous about any trouble with Germany. This attitude was the consequence of Lichnowsky's work. The fact is that relations between the two countries had not been so harmonious in twenty years. All causes of possible friction had been adjusted. The treaty regulating the future of the Bagdad Railroad, the only problem that clouded the future, had been initialled by both the British and the German Foreign Offices and was about to be signed at the moment when the ultimatums began to fly through the air. Prince Lichnowsky was thus entitled to look upon his ambassadorship as one of the most successful in modern history, for it had removed all possible cause of war.
And then suddenly came the stunning blow. For several days Lichnowsky's behaviour was that of an irresponsible person. Those who came into contact with him found his mind wandering and incoherent. Page describes the German Ambassador as coming down and receiving him in his pajamas; he was not the only one who had that experience, for members of the British Foreign Office transacted business with this most punctilious of diplomats in a similar condition of personal disarray. And the dishabille extended to his mental operations as well.
But Lichnowsky's and Mensdorff's behaviour merely portrayed the general atmosphere that prevailed in London during that week. This atmosphere was simply hysterical. Among all the intimate participants, however, there was one man who kept his poise and who saw things clearly. That was the American Ambassador. It was certainly a strange trick which fortune had played upon Page. He had come to London with no experience in diplomacy. Though the possibility of such an outbreak as this war had been in every man's consciousness for a generation, it had always been as something certain yet remote; most men thought of it as most men think of death---as a fatality which is inevitable, but which is so distant that it never becomes a reality. Thus Page, when he arrived in London, did not have the faintest idea of the experience that awaited him. Most people would have thought that his quiet and studious and unworldly life had hardly prepared him to become the representative of the most powerful neutral power at the world's capital during the greatest crisis of modern history. To what an extent that impression was justified the happenings of the next four years will disclose; it is enough to point out in this place that in one respect at least the war found the American Ambassador well prepared. From the instant hostilities began his mind seized the significance of it all. "Mr. Page had one fine qualification for his post," a great British statesman once remarked to the present writer. "From the beginning he saw that there was a right and a wrong to the matter. He did not believe that Great Britain and Germany were equally to blame. He believed that Great Britain was right and that Germany was wrong. I regard it as one of the greatest blessings of modern times that the United States had an ambassador in London in August, 1914, who had grasped this overwhelming fact. It seems almost like a dispensation of Providence."
It is important to insist on this point now, for it explains Page's entire course as Ambassador. The confidential telegram which Page sent directly to President Wilson in early September, 1914, furnishes the standpoint from which his career as war Ambassador can be understood:
Confidential to the President
September 11, 3 A. M.
Accounts of atrocities are so inevitably a part of every war that for some time I did not believe the unbelievable reports that were sent from Europe, and there are many that I find incredible even now. But American and other neutral observers who have seen these things in France and especially in Belgium now convince me that the Germans have perpetrated some of the most barbarous deeds in history. Apparently credible persons relate such things without end.
Those who have violated the Belgian treaty, those who have sown torpedoes in the open sea, those who have dropped bombs on Antwerp and Paris indiscriminately with the idea of killing whom they may strike, have take to heart Bernhardi's doctrine that war is a glorious occupation. Can any one longer disbelieve the completely barbarous behaviour of the Prussians?
ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR
THE months following the outbreak of the war were busy ones for the American Embassy in London. The Embassies of all the great Powers with which Great Britain was contending were handed over to Page, and the citizens of these countries---Germany, Austria, Turkey---who found themselves stranded in England, were practically made his wards. It is a constant astonishment to his biographer that, during all the labour and distractions of this period, Page should have found time to write long letters describing the disturbing scene. There are scores of them, all penned in the beautiful copper-plate handwriting that shows no signs of excitement or weariness, but is in itself an evidence of mental poise and of the sure grip which Page had upon the evolving drama. From the many sent in these autumn and early winter months the following selections are made:
To Edward M. House
September 22nd, 1914.
MY DEAR HOUSE:
When the day of settlement comes, the settlement must make sure that the day of militarism is done and can come no more. If sheer brute force is to rule the world, it will not be worth living in. If German bureaucratic brute force could conquer Europe, presently it would try to conquer the United States; and we should all go back to the era of war as man's chief industry and back to the domination of kings by divine right. It seems to me, therefore, that the Hohenzollern idea must perish---be utterly strangled in the making of peace.
Just how to do this, it is not yet easy to say. If the German defeat be emphatic enough and dramatic enough, the question may answer itself---how's the best way to be rid of the danger of the recurrence of a military bureaucracy? But in any event, this thing must be killed forever---somehow. I think that a firm insistence on this is the main task that mediation will bring. The rest will be corollaries of this.
The danger, of course, as all the world is beginning to fear, is that the Kaiser, after a local victory---especially if he should yet take Paris---will propose peace, saying that he dreads the very sight of blood---propose peace in time, as he will hope, to save his throne, his dynasty, his system. That will be a dangerous day. The horror of war will have a tendency to make many persons in the countries of the Allies accept it. All the peace folk in the world will say "Accept it!" But if he and his throne and his dynasty and his system be saved, in twenty-five years the whole job must be done over again.
We are settling down to a routine of double work and to an oppression of gloom. Dead men, dead men, maimed men, the dull gray dread of what may happen next, the impossibility of changing the subject, the monotony of gloom, the consequent dimness of ideals, the overworking of the emotions and the heavy bondage of thought---the days go swiftly: that's one blessing.
The diplomatic work proper brings fewer difficulties than you would guess. New subjects and new duties come with great rapidity, but they soon fall into formulas ---at least into classes. We shall have no sharp crises nor grave difficulties so long as our Government and this Government keep their more than friendly relations. I see Sir Edward Grey almost every day. We talk of many things---all phases of one vast wreck; and all the clear-cut points that come up I report by telegraph. To-day the talk was of American cargoes in British ships and the machinery they have set up here for fair settlement. Then of Americans applying for enlistment in Canadian regiments. "If sheer brute force conquer Europe," said he, "the United States will be the only country where life will be worth living; and in time you will have to fight against it, too, if it conquer Europe." He spoke of the letter he had just received from the President, and he asked me many sympathetic questions about you also and about your health. I ventured to express some solicitude for him,
"How much do you get out now?"
"Only for an automobile drive Sunday afternoon."
This from a man who is never happy away from nature and is at home only in the woods and along the streams. He looks worn.
I hear nothing but satisfaction with our neutrality tight-rope walk. I think we are keeping it here, by close attention to our work and by silence.
Our volunteer and temporary aids are doing well---especially the army and navy officers. We now occupy three work-places: (1) the over-crowded embassy; (2) a suite of offices around the corner where the ever-lengthening list of inquiries for persons is handled and where an army officer pays money to persons whose friends have deposited it for them with the Government in Washington---just now at the rate of about $15,000 a day; and (3) two great rooms at the Savoy Hotel, where the admirable relief committee (which meets all trains that bring people from the continent) gives aid to the needy and helps people to get tickets home. They have this week helped about 400 with more or less money---after full investigation.
At the Embassy a secretary remains till bed-time, which generally means till midnight; and I go back there for an hour or two every night.
The financial help we give to German and Austrian subjects (poor devils) is given, of course, at their embassies, where we have men---our men---in charge. Each of these governments accepted my offer to give our Ambassadors (Gerard and Penfield) a sum of money to help Americans if I would set aside an equal sum to help their people here. The German fund that I thus began with was $50,000; the Austrian, $25,000. All this and more will be needed before the war ends.---All this activity is kept up with scrupulous attention to the British rules and regulations. In fact, we are helping this Government much in the management of these "alien enemies," as they call them.
I am amazed at the good health we all keep with this big volume of work and the long hours. Not a man nor a woman has been ill a day. I have known something about work and the spirit of good work in other organizations of various sorts; but I never saw one work in better spirit than this. And remember, most of them are volunteers.
The soldiers here complained for weeks in private about the lethargy of the people---the slowness of men to enlist. But they seemed to me to complain with insufficient reason. For now they come by thousands. They do need more men in the field, and they may conscript them, but I doubt the necessity. But I run across such incidents as these: I met the Dowager Countess of D----- yesterday ---a woman of 65, as tall as I and as erect herself as a soldier, who might be taken for a woman of 40, prematurely gray. "I had five sons in the Boer War. I have three in this war. I do not know where any one of them is." Mrs. Page's maid is talking of leaving her. "My two brothers have gone to the war and perhaps I ought to help their wives and children." The Countess and the maid are of the same blood, each alike unconquerable. My chauffeur has talked all day about the naval battle in which five German ships were lately sunk.(68) He reminded me of the night two months ago when he drove Mrs. Page and me to dine with Sir John and Lady Jellicoe---Jellicoe now, you know, being in command of the British fleet.
This Kingdom has settled down to war as its one great piece of business now in hand, and it is impossible, as the busy, burdensome days pass, to pick out events or impressions that one can be sure are worth writing. For instance a soldier---a man in the War Office---told me to-day that Lord Kitchener had just told him that the war may last for several years. That, I confess, seems to me very improbable, and (what is of more importance) it is not the notion held by most men whose judgment I respect. But all the military men say it will be long. It would take several years to kill that vast horde of Germans, but it will not take so long to starve them out. Food here is practically as cheap as it was three months ago and the sea routes are all open to England and practically all closed to Germany. The ultimate result, of course, will be Germany's defeat. But the British are now going about the business of war as if they knew they would continue it indefinitely. The grim efficiency of their work even in small details was illustrated to-day by the Government's informing us that a German handy man, whom the German Ambassador left at his Embassy, with the English Government's consent, Is a spy---that he sends verbal messages to Germany by women who are permitted to go home, and that they have found letters written by him sewed in some of these women's undergarments! This man has been at work there every day under the two very good men whom I have put in charge there and who have never suspected him. How on earth they found this out simply passes my understanding. Fortunately it doesn't bring any embarrassment to us; he was not in our pay and he was left by the German Ambassador with the British Government's consent, to take care of the house. Again, when the German Chancellor made a statement two days ago about the causes of the war, in a few hours Sir Edward Grey issued a statement showing that the Chancellor had misstated every important historic fact.---The other day a commercial telegram was sent (or started) by Mr. Bryan for some bank or trading concern in the United States, managed by Germans, to some correspondent of theirs in Germany. It contained the words, "Where is Harry?" The censor here stopped it. It was brought to me with the explanation that "Harry" is one of the most notorious of German spies---whom they would like to catch. The English were slow in getting into full action, but now they never miss a trick, little or big.
The Germans have far more than their match in resources and in shrewdness and---in character. As the bloody drama unfolds itself, the hollow pretence and essential barbarity of Prussian militarism become plainer and plainer: there is no doubt of that. And so does the invincibility of this race. A well-known Englishman told me to-day that his three sons, his son-in-law, and half his office men are in the military service, "where they belong in a time like this." The lady who once so sharply criticized this gentleman to Mrs. Page has a son and a brother in the army in France. It makes you take a fresh grip on your eyelids to hear either of these talk. In fact the strain on one's emotions, day in and day out, makes one wonder if the world is real---or is this a vast dream? From sheer emotional exhaustion I slept almost all day last Sunday, though I had not for several days lost sleep at all. Many persons tell me of their similar experiences. The universe seems muffled. There is a ghostly silence in London (so it seems); and only dim street lights are lighted at night. No experience seems normal. A vast organization is working day and night down town receiving Belgian refugees. They become the guests of the English. They are assigned to people's homes, to boarding houses, to institutions. They are taking care of them---this government and this people are. I do not recall when one nation ever did another whole nation just such a hospitable service as this. You can't see that work going on and remain unmoved. An old woman who has an income of $15 a week decided that she could live on $7.50. She buys milk with the other $7.50 and goes to meet every train at one of the big stations with a basket filled with baby bottles, and she gives milk to every hungry-looking baby she sees. Our American committeeman, Hoover, saw her in trouble the other day and asked her what was the matter. She explained that the police would no longer admit her to the platform because she didn't belong to any relief committee. He took her to headquarters and said: "Do you see this good old lady? She puts you and me and everybody else to shame---do you understand?" The old lady now gets to the platform. Hoover himself gave $5,000 for helping stranded Americans and he goes to the trains to meet them, while the war has stopped his big business and his big income. This is a sample of the noble American end of the story.
These are the saying class of people to whom life becomes a bore unless they can help somebody. There's just such a fellow in Brussels---you may have heard of him, for his name is Whitlock. Stories of his showing himself a man come out of that closed-up city every week. To a really big man, it doesn't matter whether his post is a little post, or a big post but, if I were President, I'd give Whitlock a big post. There's another fellow somewhere in Germany---a consul---of whom I never heard till the other day. But people have taken to coming in my office ---English ladies---who wish to thank "you and your great government" for the courage and courtesy of this consul.(69) Stories about him will follow. Herrick, too, in Paris, somehow causes Americans and English and even Guatemalans who come along to go out of their way to say what he has done for them. Now there is a quality in the old woman with the baby bottles, and in the consul and in Whitlock and Hoover and Herrick and this English nation which adopts the Belgians---a quality that is invincible. When folk like these come down the road, I respectfully do obeisance to them. And---it's this kind of folk that the Germans have run up against. I thank Heaven I'm of their race and blood.
The whole world is bound to be changed as a result of this war. If Germany should win, our Monroe Doctrine would at once be shot in two, and we should have to get "out of the sun." The military party is a party of conquest---absolutely. If England wins, as of course she will, it'll be a bigger and a stronger England, with no strong enemy in the world, with her Empire knit closer than ever---India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Egypt; under obligations to and in alliance with Russia! England will not need our friendship as much as she now needs it; and there may come governments here that will show they do not. In any event, you see, the world will be changed. It's changed already: witness Bernstorff(70) and Münsterberg(71) playing the part once played by Irish agitators!
All of which means that it is high time we were constructing a foreign service. First of all, Congress ought to make it possible to have half a dozen or more permanent foreign under-secretaries---men who, after service in the Department, could go out as Ministers and Ambassadors; it ought generously to reorganize the whole thing. It ought to have a competent study made of the foreign offices of other governments. Of course it ought to get room to work in. Then it ought at once to give its Ambassadors and Ministers homes and dignified treatment. We've got to play a part in the world whether we wish to or not. Think of these things.
The blindest great force in this world to-day is the Prussian War Party---blind and stupid.---Well, and the most weary man in London just at this hour is
Your humble servant,
W. H. R
but he'll be all right in the morning.
To Arthur W. Page
I recall one night when we were dining at Sir John Jellicoe's, he told me that the Admiralty never slept ---that he had a telephone by his bed every night.
"Did it ever ring? I asked.
"No; but it will."
You begin to see pretty clearly how English history has been made and makes itself. This afternoon Lady S---- told your mother of her three sons, one on a warship in the North Sea, another with the army in France, and a third in training to go. "How brave you all are!" said your mother, and her answer was: "They belong to their country; we can't do anything else." One of the daughters-in-law of the late Lord Salisbury came to see me to find out if I could make an inquiry about her son who was reported "missing" after the battle of Mons. She was dry-eyed, calm, self-restrained---very grateful for the effort I promised to make; but a Spartan woman would have envied her self-possession. It turned out that her son was dead.
You hear experiences like these almost every day. These are the kinds of women and the kinds of men that have made the British Empire and the English race. You needn't talk of decadence. All their great qualities are in them here and now. I believe that half the young men who came to Katharine's(73) dances last winter and who used to drop in at the house once in a while are dead in France already. They went as a matter of course. This is the reason they are going to win. Now these things impress you, as they come to you day by day.
There isn't any formal social life now---no dinners, no parties. A few friends dine with a few friends now and then very quietly. The ladies of fashion are hospital nurses and Red Cross workers, or they are collecting socks and blankets for the soldiers. One such woman told your mother to-day that she went to one of the recruiting camps every day and taught the young fellows what colloquial French she could. Every man, woman, and child seems to be doing something. In the ordinary daily life, we see few of them: everybody is at work somewhere.
We live in a world of mystery: nothing can surprise us. The rumour is that a servant in one of the great families sent word to the Germans where the three English cruisers(74) were that German submarines blew up the other day. Not a German in the Kingdom can earn a penny. We're giving thousands of them money at the German Embassy to keep them alive. Our Austrian Embassy runs a soup kitchen where it feeds a lot of Austrians. Your mother went around there the other day and they showed that they thought they owe their daily bread to her. One day she went to one of the big houses where the English receive and distribute the thousands of Belgians who come here, poor creatures, to be taken care of. One old woman asked your mother in French if she were a princess. The lady that was with your mother answered, "Une Grande Dame." That seemed to do as well.
This government doesn't now let anybody carry any food away. But to-day they consented on condition I'd receive the food (for the Belgians) and consign it to Whitlock. This is their way of keeping it out of German hands ---have the Stars and Stripes, so to speak, to cover every bag of flour and of salt. That's only one of 1,000 queer activities that I engage in. I have a German princess's(75) jewels in our safe---$100,000 worth of them in my keeping; I have an old English nobleman's check for $40,000 to be sent to men who have been building a house for his daughter in Dresden---to be sent as soon as the German Government agrees not to arrest the lady for debt. I have sent Miss Latimer(76) over to France to bring an Austrian baby eight months old whose mother will take it to the United States and bring it up an American citizen! The mother can't go and get it for fear the French might detain her; I've got the English Government's permission for the family to go to the United States. Harold(77) is in Belgium, trying to get a group of English ladies home who went there to nurse wounded English and Belgians and whom the Germans threaten to kidnap and transport to German hospitals---every day a dozen new kinds of jobs.
London is weird and muffled and dark and, in the West End, deserted. Half the lamps are not lighted, and the upper half of the globes of the street lights are painted black---so the Zeppelin raiders may not see them. You've no idea what a strange feeling it gives one. The papers have next to no news. The 23rd day of the great battle is reported very much in the same words as the 3rd day was. Yet nobody talks of much else. The censor erases most of the matter the correspondents write. We're in a sort of dumb as well as dark world. And yet, of course, we know much more here than they know in any other European capital.
To the President
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT:
When England, France, and Russia agreed the other day not to make peace separately, that cooked the Kaiser's goose. They'll wear him out. Since England thus has Frenchmen and Russians bound, the Allies are strengthened at their only weak place. That done, England is now going in deliberately, methodically, patiently to do the task. Even a fortnight ago, the people of this Kingdom didn't realize all that the war means to them. But the fever is rising now. The wounded are coming back, the dead are mourned, and the agony of hearing only that such-and-such a man is missing---these are having a prodigious effect. The men I meet now say in a matter-of-fact way: "Oh, yes! we'll get 'em, of course; the only question is, how long it will take us and how many of us it will cost. But no matter, we'll get 'em."
Old ladies and gentlemen of the high, titled world now begin by driving to my house almost every morning while I am at breakfast. With many apologies for calling so soon and with the fear that they interrupt me, they ask if I can make an inquiry in Germany for "my son," or ".my nephew"---"he's--- among the missing." They never weep; their voices do not falter; they are brave and proud and self-restrained. It seems a sort of matter-of-course to them. Sometimes when they get home, they write me polite notes thanking me for receiving them. This morning the first man was Sir Dighton Probyn of Queen Alexandra's household---so dignified and courteous that you'd hardly have guessed his errand. And at intervals they come all day. Not a tear have I seen yet. They take it as a part of the price of greatness and of empire. You guess at their grief only by their reticence. They use as few words as possible and then courteously take themselves away. It isn't an accident that these people own a fifth of the world. Utterly unwarlike, they outlast anybody else when war comes. You don't get a sense of fighting here---only of endurance and of high resolve. Fighting is a sort of incident in the struggle to keep their world from German domination. . . .
To Edward M. House
October 11, 1914.
There is absolutely nothing to write. It's war, war, war all the time; no change of subject; and, if you changed with your tongue, you couldn't change in your thought; war, war, war---"for God's sake find out if my son is dead or a prisoner"; rumours---they say that two French generals were shot for not supporting French, and then they say only one; and people come who have helped take the wounded French from the field and they won't even talk, it is so horrible; and a lady says that her own son (wounded) told her that when a man raised up in the trench to fire, the stench was so awful that it made him sick for an hour; and the poor Belgians come here by the tens of thousands, and special trains bring the English wounded; and the newspapers tell little or nothing---every day's reports like the preceding days; and yet nobody talks about anything else.
Now and then the subject of its settlement is mentioned---Belgium and Serbia, of course, to be saved and far as possible indemnified; Russia to have the Slay-Austrian States and Constantinople; France to have Alsace-Lorraine, of course; and Poland to go to Russia; Schleswig-Holstein and the Kiel Canal no longer to be German; all the South-German States to become Austrian and none of the German States to be under Prussian rule; the Hohenzollerns to be eliminated; the German fleet, or what is left of it, to become Great Britain's; and the German colonies to be used to satisfy such of the Allies as clamour for more than they get.
Meantime this invincible race is doing this revolutionary task marvellously---volunteering; trying to buy arms in the United States (a Pittsburgh manufacturer is now here trying to close a bargain with the War Office!);(78) knitting socks and mufflers; taking in all the poor Belgians; stopping all possible expenditure; darkening London at night; doing every conceivable thing to win as if they had been waging this war always and meant to do nothing else for the rest of their lives---and not the slightest doubt about the result and apparently indifferent how long it lasts or how much it costs.
Every aspect of it gets on your nerves. I can't keep from wondering how the world will seem after it is over---Germany (that is, Prussia and its system) cut out like a cancer; England owning still more of the earth; Belgium---all the men dead; France bankrupt; Russia admitted to the society of nations; the British Empire entering on a new lease of life; no great navy but one; no great army but the Russian; nearly all governments in Europe bankrupt; Germany gone from the sea---in ten years it will be difficult to recall clearly the Europe of the last ten years. And the future of the world more than ever in our hands!
We here don't know what you think or what you know at home; we haven't yet any time to read United States newspapers, which come very, very late; nobody writes us real letters (or the censor gets 'em, perhaps!); and so the war, the war, the war is the one thing that holds our minds.
We have taken a house for the Chancery(79)--almost the size of my house in Grosvenor Square-for the same sum as rent that the landlord proposed hereafter to charge us for the old hole where we've been for twenty-nine years. For the first time Uncle Sam has a decent place in London. We've five times as much room and ten times as much work. Now---just this last week or two---I get off Sundays: that's doing well. And I don't now often go back at night. So, you see, we've much to he thankful for.---Shall we insure against Zeppelins? That's what everybody's asking. I told the Spanish Ambassador yesterday that I am going to ask the German Government for instructions about insuring their Embassy here!
Write and send some news. I saw an American to-day who says he's going home to-morrow." Cable me," said I, "if you find the continent where it used to be."
WALTER H. PAGE.
P. S. It is strange how little we know what you know on your side and just what you think, what relative value you put on this and what on that. There's a new sort of loneliness sprung up because of the universal absorption in the war.
And I hear all sorts of contradictory rumours about the effect of the German crusade in the United States. Oh well, the world has got to choose whether it will have English or German domination in Europe; that's the single big question at issue. For my part I'll risk the English and then make a fresh start ourselves to outstrip them in the spread of well-being; in the elevation of mankind of all classes; in the broadening of democracy and democratic rule (which is the sheet-anchor of all men's hopes just as bureaucracy. and militarism are the destruction of all men's hopes); in the spread of humane feeling and action; in the growth of human kindness; in the tender treatment of women and children and the old; in literature, in art; in the abatement of suffering; in great changes in economic conditions which discourage poverty; and in science which gives us new leases on life and new tools and wider visions. These are our world tasks, with England as our friendly rival and helper. God bless us.
W. H. P.
To Arthur W. Page
London, November 6, 1914.
Those excellent photographs, those excellent apples, those excellent cigars-thanks. I'm thinking of sending Kitty(80) over again. They all spell and smell and taste of home---of the U. S. A. Even the messenger herself seems Unitedstatesy, and that's a good quality, I assure you. She's told us less news than you'd think she might for so long a journey and so long a visit; but that's the way with us all. And, I dare say, if it were all put together it would make a pretty big news-budget. And luckily for us (I often think we are among the luckiest families in the world) all she says is quite cheerful. It's a wonderful report she makes of County Line(81)---the country, the place, the house, and its inhabitants. Maybe, praise God, I'll see it myself some day---it and them.
But---but---I don't know when and can't guess out of this vast fog of war and doom. The worst of it is nobody knows just what is happening. I have, for an example, known for a week of the blowing up of a British dreadnaught(82)---thousands of people know it privately---and yet it isn't published! Such secrecy makes you fear there may be other and even worse secrets. But I don't really believe there are. What I am trying to say is, so far as news (and many other things) go, we are under a military rule.
It's beginning to wear on us badly. It presses down, presses down, presses down in an indescribable way. All the people you see have lost sons or brothers; mourning becomes visible over a wider area all the time; people talk of nothing else; all the books are about the war; ordinary social life is suspended---people are visibly growing older. And there are some aspects of it that are incomprehensible. For instance, a group of American and English military men and correspondents were talking with me yesterday---men who have been on both sides---in Germany and Belgium and in France---and they say that the Germans in France alone have had 750,000 men killed. The Allies have lost 400,000 to 500,000. This in France only. Take the other fighting lines and there must already be a total of 2,000,000 killed. Nothing like that has ever happened before in the history of the world. A flood or a fire or a wreck which has killed 500 has often shocked all mankind. Yet we know of this enormous slaughter and (in a way) are not greatly moved. I don't know of a better measure of the brutalizing effect of war---it's bringing us to take a new and more inhuman standard to measure events by.
As for any political or economic reckoning---that's beyond any man's ability yet. I see strings of incomprehensible figures that some economist or other now and then puts in the papers, summing up the loss in pounds sterling. But that means nothing because we have no proper measure of it. If a man lose $10 or $10,000 we can grasp that. But when nations shoot away so many million pounds sterling every day---that means nothing to me. I do know that there's going to be no money on this side the world for a long time to buy American securities. The whole world is going to be hard up in consequence of the bankruptcy of these nations, the inestimable destruction of property, and the loss of productive men. I fancy that such a change will come in the economic and financial readjustment of the world as nobody can yet guess at.---Are Americans studying these things? It is not only South-American trade; it is all sorts of manufacturers; it is financial influence---if we can quit spending and wasting, and husband our earnings. There's no telling the enormous advantages we shall gain if we are wise.
The extent to which the German people have permitted themselves to be fooled is beyond belief. As a little instance of it, I enclose a copy of a letter that Lord Bryce gave me, written by an English woman who did good social work in her early life---a woman of sense---and who married a German merchant and has spent her married life in Germany. She is a wholly sincere person. This letter she wrote to a friend in England and---she believes every word of it. If she believes it, the great mass of the Germans believe similar things. I have heard of a number of such letters---sincere, as this one is. It gives a better insight into the average German mind than a hundred speeches by the Emperor.
This German and Austrian diplomatic business involves an enormous amount of work. I've now sent one man to Vienna and another to Berlin to straighten out almost hopeless tangles and lies about prisoners and such things and to see if they won't agree to swap more civilians detained in each country. On top of these, yesterday came the Turkish Embassy! Alas, we shall never see old Tewfik(83) again! This business begins briskly to-day with the detention of every Turkish consul in the British Empire. Lord! I dread the missionaries; and I know they're coming now. This makes four embassies. We put up a sign, "The American Embassy," on every one of them. Work? We're worked to death. Two nights ago I didn't get time to read a letter or even a telegram that had come that day till 11 o'clock at night. For on top of all these Embassies, I've had to become Commissary-General to feed 6,000,000 starving people in Belgium; and practically all the food must come from the United States. You can't buy food for export in any country in Europe. The devastation of Belgium defeats the Germans.---I don't mean in battle but I mean in the after-judgment of mankind. They cannot recover from that half as soon as they may recover from the economic losses of the war. The reducing of those people to starvation---that will stick to damn them in history. whatever they win or whatever they lose.
When's it going to end? Everybody who ought to know says at the earliest next year---next summer. Many say in two years. As for me, I don't know. I don't see how it can end soon. Neither can lick the other to a frazzle and neither can afford to give up till it is completely licked. This way of living in trenches and fighting a month at a time in one place is a new thing in warfare. Many a man shoots a cannon all day for a month without seeing a single enemy. There are many wounded men back here who say they haven't seen a single German. When the trenches become so full of dead men that the living can't stay there longer, they move back to other trenches. So it goes on. Each side has several more million. men to lose. What the end will be---I mean when it will come, I don't see how to guess. The Allies are obliged to win; they have more food and more money, and in the long run, more men. But the German fighting machine is by far the best organization ever made---not the best men,, but the best organization; and the whole German people believe what the woman writes whose letter I send you. It'll take a long time to beat it.
W. H. P.
The letter that Page inclosed, and another copy of which was sent to the President, purported to be written by the English wife of a German in Bremen. It was as follows:
It is very difficult to write, more difficult to believe that what I write will succeed in reaching you. My husband insists on my urging you---it is not necessary I am sure---to destroy the letter and all possible indications of its origin, should you think it worth translating. The letter will go by a business friend of my husband's to Holland, and be got off from there. For our business with Holland is now exceedingly brisk as you may understand. Her neutrality is most precious to us.(84)
Well, I have of course a divided mind. I think of those old days in Liverpool and Devonshire---how far off they seem I And yet I spent all last year in England. It was in March last when I was with you and we talked of the amazing treatment of your army---I cannot any longer call it our army---by ministers crying for the resignation of its officers and eager to make their humiliation an election cry! How far off that seems, too! Let me tell you that it was the conduct of your ministers, Churchill especially, that made people here so confident that your Government could not fight. It seemed impossible that Lloyd George and his following could have the effrontery to pose as a "war" cabinet; still more impossible that any sane people could trust them if they did! Perhaps you may remember a talk we had also in March about Matthew Arnold whom I was reading again during my convalescence at Sidmouth. You said that "Friendship's Garland" and its Arminius could not be written now. I disputed that and told you that it was still true that your Government talked and "gassed" just as much as ever, and were wilfully blind to the fact that your power of action was wholly unequal to your words. As in 1870 so now. Nay, worse, your rulers have always known it perfectly well, but refused to see it or to admit it, because they wanted office and knew that to say the truth would bring the radical vote in the cities upon their poor heads. It is the old hypocrisy, in the sense in which Germans have always accused your nation: alas! and it is half my nation too. You pride yourselves on "Keeping your word" to Belgium. But you pride yourselves also, not so overtly just now, on always refusing to prepare yourselves to keep that word in deed. In the first days of August you knew, absolutely and beyond all doubt, that you could do nothing to make good your word. You had not the moral courage to say so, and, having said so, to act accordingly and to warn Belgium that your promise was "a scrap of paper," and effectively nothing more. It is nothing more, and has proved to be nothing more, but you do not see that your indelible disgrace lies just in this, that you unctuously proclaim that you are keeping your word when all the time you know, you have always known, that you refused utterly and completely to take the needful steps to enable you to translate word into action. Have you not torn up your " scrap of paper" just as effectively as Germany has? As my husband puts it: England gave Belgium a check, a big check, and gave it with much ostentation, but took care that there should be no funds to meet it! Trusting to your check Belgium finds herself bankrupt, sequestrated, blotted out as a nation. But I know England well enough to foresee that English statesmen, with our old friend, the Manchester Guardian, which we used to read in years gone by, will always quote with pride how they "guaranteed" the neutrality of Belgium.
As to the future. You cannot win. A nation that has prided itself on making no sacrifice for political power or even independence must pay for its pride. Our house here in Bremen has lately been by way of a centre for naval men, and to a less extent, for officers of the neighbouring commands. They are absolutely confident that they will land ten army corps in England before Christmas. It is terrible to know what they mean to go for. They mean to destroy. Every town which remotely is concerned with war material is to be annihilated. Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Northampton are to be wiped out, and the men killed, ruthlessly hunted down. The fact that Lancashire and Yorkshire have held aloof from recruiting is not to save them. The fact that Great Britain is to be a Reichsland will involve the destruction of inhabitants, to enable German citizens to be planted in your country in their place. German soldiers hope that your poor creatures will resist, as patriots should, but they doubt it very much. For resistance will facilitate the process of clearance. Ireland will be left independent, and its harmlessness will be guaranteed by its inevitable civil war.
You may wonder, as I do sometimes, whether this hatred of England is not unworthy, or a form of mental disease. But you must know that it is at bottom not hatred but contempt; fierce, unreasoning scorn for a country that pursues money and ease, from aristocrat to trade-unionist labourer, when it has a great inheritance to defend. I feel bitter, too, for I spent half my life in your country and my dearest friends are all English still; and yet I am deeply ashamed of the hypocrisy and make-believe that has initiated your national policy and brought you down. Now, one thing more. England is, after all, only a stepping stone. From Liverpool, Queenstown, Glasgow, Belfast, we shall reach out across the ocean. I firmly believe that within a year Germany will have seized the new Canal and proclaimed its defiance of the great Monroe Doctrine. We have six million Germans in the United States, and the Irish-Americans behind them. The Americans, believe me, are as a nation a cowardly nation, and will never fight organized strength except in defense of their own territories. With the Nova Scotian peninsula and the Bermudas, with the West Indies and the Guianas we shall be able to dominate the Americas. By our possession of the entire Western European seaboard America can find no outlet for its products except by our favour. Her finance is in German hands, her commercial capitals, New York and Chicago, are in reality German cities. It is some years since my father and I were in New York. But my opinion is not very different from that of the forceful men who have planned this war---that with Britain as a base the control of the American continent is under existing conditions the task of a couple of months.
I remember a conversation with Doctor Dohrn, the head of the great biological station at Naples, some four or five years ago. He was complaining of want of adequate subventions from Berlin. "Everything is wanted for the Navy," he said. "And what really does Germany want with such a navy?" I asked. "She is always saying that she certainly does not regard it as a weapon against England." At that Doctor Dohrn raised his eyebrows. "But you, gnädige Frau, are a German?" "Of course." "Well, then, you will understand me when I say with all the seriousness I can command that this fleet of ours is intended to deal with smugglers on the shores of the Island of Rügen." I laughed. He became graver still. "The ultimate enemy of our country is America;(85) and I pray that I may see the day of an alliance between a beaten England and a victorious Fatherland against the bully of the Americas." Well, Germany and Austria were never friends until Sadowa had shown the way. Oh! if your country, which in spite of all I love so much, would but "see things clearly and see them whole."
Bremen, September 25, 1914.
To Ralph W. Page(86)
London, Sunday, November 15, 1914.
You were very good to sit down in Greensboro, or anywhere else, and to write me a fine letter. Do that often. You say there's nothing to do now in the Sandhills. Write us letters: that's a fair job!
God save us, we need 'em. We need anything from the sane part of the world to enable us to keep our balance. One of the commonest things you hear about now is the insanity of a good number of the poor fellows who come back from the trenches as well as of a good many Belgians. The sights and sounds they've experienced unhinge their reason. If this war keep up long enough---and it isn't going to end soon---people who have had no sight of it will go crazy, too---the continuous thought of it, the inability to get away from it by any device whatever---all this tells on us all. Letters, then, plenty of them---let 'em come.
You are in a peaceful land. The war is a long, long way off. You suffer nothing worse than a little idleness and a little poverty. They are nothing. I hope (and believe) that you get enough to eat. Be content, then. Read the poets, improve a piece of land, play with the baby, learn golf. That's the happy and philosophic and fortunate life in these times of world-madness.
As for the continent of Europe---forget it. We have paid far too much attention to it. It has ceased to be worth it. And now it's of far less value to us---and will be for the rest of your life---than it has ever been before. An ancient home of man, the home, too, of beautiful things---buildings, pictures, old places, old traditions, dead civilizations---the place where man rose from barbarism to civilization---it is now bankrupt, its best young men dead, its system of politics and of government a failure, its social structure enslaving and tyrannical---it has little help for us. The American spirit, which is the spirit that concerns itself with making life better for the whole mass of men---that's at home at its best with us. The whole future of the race is in the new countries---our country chiefly. This grows on one more and more and more. The things that are best worth while are on our side of the ocean. And we've got all the bigger job to do because of this violent demonstration of the failure of continental Europe. It's gone on living on a false basis till its elements got so mixed that it has simply blown itself to pieces. It is a great convulsion of nature, as an earthquake or a volcano is. Human life there isn't worth what a yellow dog's life is worth in Moore County. Don't bother yourself with the continent of Europe any more---except to learn the value of a real democracy and the benefits it can confer precisely in proportion to the extent to which men trust to it. Did you ever read my Address delivered before the Royal Institution of Great Britain?(87) I enclose a copy. Now that's my idea of the very milk of the word. To come down to daily, deadly things---this upheaval is simply infernal. Parliament opened the other day and half the old lords that sat in their robes had lost their heirs and a larger part of the members of the House wore khaki. To-morrow they will vote $1,125,000,000 for war purposes. They had already voted $500,000,000. They'll vote more, and more, and more, if necessary. They are raising a new army of 2,000,000 men. Every man and every dollar they have will go if necessary. That's what I call an invincible people. The Kaiser woke up the wrong passenger. But for fifty years the continent won't be worth living on. My heavens! what bankruptcy will follow death!
W. H. P.
To Frank C. Page(88)
Sunday, December 20th, 1914.
DEAR OLD MAN:
I envy both you and your mother(89) your chance to make plans for the farm and the house and all the rest of it and to have one another to talk to. And, most of all, you are where you can now and then change the subject. You can guess somewhat at our plight when Kitty and I confessed to one another last night that we were dead tired and needed to go to bed early and to stay long. She's sleeping yet, the dear kid, and I hope she'll sleep. till lunch time. There isn't anything the matter with us but the war; but that's enough, Heaven knows. It's the worst ailment that has ever struck me. Then, if you add to that this dark, wet, foggy, sooty, cold, penetrating climate---you ought to thank your stars that you are not in it. I'm glad your mother's out of it, as much as we miss her; and miss her? Good gracious! there's no telling the hole her absence makes in all our life. But Kitty is a trump, true blue and dead game, and the very best company you can find in a day's journey. And, much as we miss your mother, you mustn't weep for us; we are having some fun and are planning more. I could have no end of fun with her if I had any time. But to work all day and till bedtime doesn't leave much time for sport.
The farm---the farm---the farm---it's yours and Mother's to plan and make and do with as you wish. I shall be happy whatever you do, even if you put the roof in the cellar and the cellar on top of the house.
If you have room enough (16 X 10 plus a fire and a bath are enough for me), I'll go down there and write a book. If you haven't it, I'll go somewhere else and write a book. I don't propose to be made unhappy by any house or by the lack of any house nor by anything whatsoever.
All the details of life go on here just the same. The war goes as slowly as death because it is death, death to millions of men. We've all said all we know about it to one another a thousand times; nobody knows anything else; nobody can guess when it will end; nobody has any doubt about how it will end, unless some totally improbable and unexpected thing happens, such as the falling out of the Allies, which can't happen for none of them can afford it; and we go around the same bloody circle all the time. The papers never have any news; nobody ever talks about anything else; everybody is tired to death; nobody is cheerful; when it isn't sick Belgians, it's aeroplanes; and when it isn't aeroplanes, it's bombarding the coast of England. When it isn't an American ship held up, it's a fool American-German arrested as a spy; and when it isn't a spy it's a liar who knows the Zeppelins are coming tonight. We don't know anything; we don't believe anybody; we should be surprised at nothing; and at 3 o'clock I'm going to the Abbey to a service in honour of the 100 years of peace! The world has all got itself so jumbled up that the bays are all promontories, the mountains are all valleys, and earthquakes are necessary for our happiness. We have disasters for breakfast; mined ships for luncheon; burned cities for dinner; trenches in our dreams, and bombarded towns for small talk.
Peaceful seems the sandy landscape where you are, glad the very blackjacks, happy the curs, blessed the sheep, interesting the chin-whiskered clodhopper, innocent the fool darkey, blessed the mule, for it knows no war. And you have your mother---be happy, boy; you don't know how much you have to be thankful for.
Europe is ceasing to be interesting except as an example of how-not-to-do-it. It has no lessons for us except as a warning. When the whole continent has to go fighting---every blessed one of them---once a century, and half of them half the time between and all prepared even when they are not fighting, and when they shoot away all their money as soon as they begin to get rich a little and everybody else's money, too, and make the whole world poor, and when they kill every third or fourth generation of the best men and leave the worst to rear families, and have to start over afresh every time with a worse stock---give me Uncle Sam and his big farm. We don't need to catch any of this European fife. We can do without it all as well as we can do without the judges' wigs and the court costumes. Besides, I like a land where the potatoes have some flavour, where you can buy a cigar, and get your hair cut and have warm bathrooms.
Build the farm, therefore; and let me hear at every stage of that happy game. May the New Year be the best that has ever come for you !
W. H. P.
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